“…Live theatre will never die… it has an allure… which nothing in the digital world can give you…”
Being cast in a school play was the start of an abiding love affair with theatre. He has studied it, acted in it, directed and produced it. In 1963 he lectured in it and ten years later he was appointed the professor and head of speech and drama at Rhodes University making it the premier school in the country for students of drama; his two specialist subjects being traditional comedy and Shakespeare. There is little call for old English comedy such as The Rivals in South Africa today, but there still is for Shakespeare and Roy prides himself on being able to teach students the language of Shakespeare, the cadences, the rhythms, the symbols and the echoes of a deep psychology not easily read between each line.
So why would he give all that up to become the Head of English Drama at the SABC? He rues that day. And yet there is a plan in all things. As Head, he discovered that there were few English writers in South Africa, so he set about remedying that. He approached the Baxter Theatre and created The New Writing Programme. This transferred to the Artscape and encouraged hundreds of new writers. And then, with Fatima Dike, he established the Siyasanga Theatre Group. This is now run by Fatima and Roy’s partner Paul Reginis who frequently take South African plays to Dublin where Roy has established ties.
He can be proud of the New Writing Programme but his lasting legacy is establishing, with Prof Guy Butler, The Grahamstown Festival of the Arts which, with sponsorship from Standard Bank, has become the most important showcase of South African culture in the country.